Bill Rostad thinks he probably could have spent his career in industries more exciting than tire wholesaling, yet he admits that he misses the smell of tires now that he's retired.
Then again, Mr. Rostad, 62, has had his fair share of excitement. Formerly sales manager of Seattle-based wheel and tire shop equipment wholesaler Six Robblees Inc., Mr. Rostad recently was named the 2005 Outstanding Nordic Patroller by the National Ski Patrol (NSP), an organization he has volunteered for in his native Washington state since 1978.
``Everybody needs to give back something to the community, whether you're a Kiwanis or Lions, or whatever, and (ski patrol) was my way of doing that,'' Mr. Rostad told Tire Business.
An avid outdoorsman, Mr. Rostad moved to Haines six days after retiring from Six Robblees in June but recently returned to the Seattle area for more NSP training and to receive a Gold Merit Star from the patrol. The Gold Merit Star denotes that he's the best in the country, said Myer Avedovech, the NSP's national awards coordinator.
Mr. Avedovech explained that volunteers are nominated for the award based on hours spent skiing, teaching clinics or implementing programs. A panel of judges then selects the winner based solely on the information given on each individual; no names are given to the judges until after their selection.
``He's a real dedicated patroller, he's the kind that just stands out,'' Mr. Avedovech said.
Some of Mr. Rostad's duties for the patrol include search and rescue of lost skiers, hunters, hikers and mountain climbers, especially those caught in an avalanche. He told Tire Business that he almost did get caught in avalanches while searching for lost people, including one incident where an avalanche broke loose six feet in front of him.
``Three of us were able to hit the deck and stop before we went into it,'' he said. ``We were around a lot of slides and that, of course, was part of our job.''
Mr. Rostad noted that oftentimes search-and-rescue work isn't glamorous, and there were a few times when he and his group skied out to recover bodies.
``Most of the work with search and rescue is not exciting, it's just hard, long work,'' he said. ``Carrying somebody (from a site), if you figure that it's going to take you an hour and a half to two hours to walk out, it's going to take you eight to carry somebody out.''
Mr. Rostad's career spanned 40 years in the tire industry, beginning with a part-time job with a Firestone company-owned tire store's service department during college, where he worked his way up to manager. He left that job to manage a General Tire store until one of his suppliers at Motor Wheel and Parts in Seattle recruited him to work as a sales associate in 1972.
It was during his tenure at Motor Wheel and Parts, where he was named sales manager in 1977, that he began volunteering with the NSP. The company, he said, felt that it also was helping the community by giving him the flexibility to answer skiing emergencies. He said he never had to make up the time.
``When I was with Motor Wheel, they were a little more liberal, and I was able to go on a lot of weekday searches,'' Mr. Rostad said.
``It was a smaller organization and everyone there, their way of becoming part of it was to pull in around me and let me go, and then they became part of it.''
Six Robblees purchased Motor Wheel in 1992, and Mr. Rostad stayed on as sales manager until retiring June 15. He said that Six Robblees sells everything from 8-inch wheels to 36-, 42- and 50-inch agricultural wheels to tire dealers. The company also does business with trailer manufacturers selling undercarriage assemblies.
But Mr. Rostad's ``favorite part of the business was the tire dealers.''
``There were a lot of great people in this industry, and I really enjoyed them,'' he said.
He joined the Northwest Tire Dealers Association as a supplier member and eventually was elected to the board of directors. He served as association vice president in 2004, and he said he made many friends among tire dealers through the association.
``I think it's very important for people in whatever industry they're in to belong to trade associations within that industry,'' Mr. Rostad told Tire Business. ``It keeps you in tune with what's going on. You can become somewhat myopic just working in your own little world.''
His retirement plans include getting a boat and, once the weather gets a bit warmer again, fishing with his wife Rocki for shrimp and crab along Lynn Canal, a scenic fjord near his new home in Haines.
For this winter, though, Mr. Rostad said he and his wife will head back to Washington where he will continue his duties with the ski patrol and its search-and-rescue operation during the ski season.
After this year's ski season, the Rostads will decide if they will continue to return to Washington to patrol every winter since there are no ski areas near their new home.
But Mr. Rostad acknowledged that ski patrol has helped his vitality.
``If you ski with young people, they keep you young,'' he said. ``All my friends who quit patrolling, they get old real fast and they die.''